The Twists & Trials of Reading a Book in Second Life

by Joan Kremer on July 28, 2008 · 6 comments

in Adventures,How-to guides,Virtual tools

For a writer, capsule more about books are as important as oxygen, so why spend time in a virtual world where I can’t pick up a good book, flip its pages, lie on the beach reading?

Finally got a book to openThose were some of my thoughts as I stumbled through the first few days as a Second Life newbie. Right away, I got it that writing workshops and open-mic readings are possible. But without books, this 3D universe couldn’t have much else to offer a writer.

Was I ever wrong!! Oh me of little faith!

The creative souls that inhabit the metaverse solved that problem long ago by inventing a “printing press” that generates books and magazines (including literary journals) of all sorts. Not only can you read a book in Second Life, you can submit a manuscript for publication by an inworld press or publish your own book of poetry, short stories, a novel, nonfiction, etc., etc.

In future posts, I will talk about the many publishing opportunities for writers in Second Life, but today I want to talk about this incredible object—the virtual book!

My first surprise (relevant to this topic, anyway!) was how many libraries are located in Second Life. Then I began to discover books all over SL.

Hard to read book in Second LifeBut gimme a break: how do you read a book that’s the size of one of your desktop icons? (Even for readers a lot younger than me, it would be darn near impossible.) I went searching for the answer, knowing there must be one, given the sheer number of books in SL.

Here’s what I discovered about SL books. (If you’ve never cracked a virtual book, you can use these points to avoid the goofy missteps I took!)

1. Virtual books can be gorgeous. Let me restate that: they’re absolutely, awesomely beautiful! No restrictions on full-color images or inside design elements!

But in your SL inventory, they are just another little yellow cube like any other SL object. So for a while, I didn’t bother to check them out.

2. While books may look like any ol’ object, they don’t rez like ’em at all!!

I so wanted to read AnonLiterary Magazine, which I’d discovered, but my first tries were fruitless.
Here I was, a newbie graduate of Orientation Island and of the many excellent tutorials available at the friendly New Citizens Incorporated Island. I had learned to—ta da!—“rez” objects inworld (which is how you turn one of those plain yellow cubes in your inventory into anything from a new shirt to a gigantic mansion.)

So, I applied the same technique to the AnonLiterary Magazine:

  1. Drag box out of inventory.
  2. Unpack box that shows up on the ground.
  3. Copy contents of box to inventory.
  4. Delete box from ground.
  5. Voila!

Except, when I then looked at the parts and pieces in my inventory, I had a bunch of one-line messages, a totally geek-looking programming script, and no journal!!

3. Virtual books don’t “unpack”: they “rez” whole and intact. But I wandered for quite some time not knowing that.

Alas Zerbino tries to read Second Life book attached to handI’d see all these books I wanted to read, but couldn’t find the magic words, the abracadabra that would open them. Until one day I came upon an open book lying on a table. I tiptoed up to it (quite certain it would snap shut and lock up if it heard me coming), and tentatively touched one of the pages. Whoosh . . . click! The page turned! I touched it again and again, flipping through all the pages, closing the book, and reopening it.

Another SL milestone! I’d figured how to read inworld books!! I went back to my then home base at INKsters and grabbed all the issues of ANON I could find, then scurried off to a corner of the INKsters Rose Garden to rez and read the journals. This time when I dragged the object from my inventory, I simply clicked on it . . . and lo, it opened up for me! I felt like I’d found the key to a treasure chest.

Unfortunately, part of the magazine was stuck into the ground, so I had to fiddle with repositioning it until I could see an entire two-page spread. Then I proceeded to read—or rather to try to read—the short stories and poems in there. Because in order to actually read the words, I had to:

  1. Zoom in close to the pages.
  2. Tilt and rotate my “camera” so the pages weren’t skewed or upside down or inside out.
  3. Attempt the impossible task of keeping the camera totally still, when any touch of the keyboard or mouse makes it jump all over the place.
  4. Stop breathing (almost).

I didn’t read much of AnonLiterary that day . . . or for many days afterward!

Alas Zerbino trying to read Second Life book attached to her nose4. Virtual books are best read “worn”! But I didn’t know that. I kept my ignorance a secret for many weeks.

Then one day as I was traipsing around SL, I overheard an avatar tell another to wear her book! (If you’re new to Second Life, you “wear” everything from jewelry and clothes, to food and drinks, to bicyles and surfboards. To “wear” something means to attach it to you in the right position to use. For example, I “wear” my bike on my pelvis.)

So I fled to a back corner of Story Mountain to apply my new knowledge. I opened my inventory of books, and this time, instead of dragging one onto the ground, I clicked to “wear” it.

But then the question arose: where do I wear it? On my hand? My chest? Eyes? Nose? SL has an awful lot of options! I tried several, but while I got pretty close-up and personal with the book, I never did figure out how to wear it so I could read it.

Finally, in desperation, I went to the two manufacturers of SL printing presses (I’ll tell more about them in a later post) and at last found the answer:

Books are “HUD attachments.” Huh???

Alas Zerbino reading SLiterary Magazine in Second LifeHUD stands for Heads-Up Display, a geek’s way of describing something that shows on your PC screen as if it’s glued to a single place on that screen. Turns out, all I had to do was choose “wear” without saying where to wear it, and the book pops up in a nice big display on my screen, where I can read it straight-on and move all around without ever disrupting it.

Finally, after all this time, I got to read SL books easily and to my heart’s content. And there are some wonderful Second Life publications to read! In my next post, I’ll provide details about some of the literary publications that offer good reading and publishing outlets for writers.

Meanwhile, what are your experiences with Second Life books? Read any good ones? Published work in any of the books or magazines? Or just wrestled with ’em? Post a comment and tell us about it!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Phoebe Poitier August 29, 2008 at 4:12 pm

My name, in Second Life, is Phoebe Poitier – and I’m a bookaholic. I’ve been on SL just short of two years now.

I own a place called “The Library” which I’ve been working on for over a year. It’s located on Driftwood Beach in Aslan;(
There are over 150 different books available to read here.

It’s a bit of a different approach than owning a book and reading it. For the first year or so, I had just notecard books that I got from various sources and brought into SL myself. To read one of these books, you click on it to get a menu of the chapters, choose the chapter you want to see and you’re given a notecard of that chapter. You could, I suppose, grab a notecard for every chapter and take them with you to read whenever or even copy and paste them to your word processing program and print them to read in RL – Of course I’d prefer it if you stuck around, about the only thing I love more than books are new friends 🙂

I recently moved the Library to Aslan from another region and I have much more prim space here, so I’ve added some published books, like the ones that Alas wrote about…….. the page turners as I like to call them 🙂 I have placed all the books of this type that I could get my hands on (in SL) on display for all to read. The thing is, you can’t wear them, because they’re mine and although I can share them with you, I can’t give away other peoples books.

I find the best way to read them when they’re on display is to hit CTRL+1 – you’ll get a little magnifying glass – then click the magnifying glass on the center of the book. Then you can zoom in as far as you need to. Clicking to turn the pages then won’t move you around and you’ll stay in that view until you walk or turn your avatar – at which time you just go back to your normal view.

I have also just added some portraits of authors and clicking on any portrait will give you a short bio about that particular author.

I do have a printing press of my own, so little by little I hope to have some books available that you can take and wear.

I have lots of things in the works for my Library and am open to any suggestions anyone may have. Please stop by, have a peek and let me know what you think.

It’s a slow and painstaking work, my labor of love. I guess maybe its so slow and painstaking because I just can’t stop myself from reading!


2 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) August 29, 2008 at 7:22 pm

Hi Phoebe!

Thanks so much for adding this information about The Library! As I told you, I wished I’d known about it before I wrote this post — you could have answered a lot of my questions (not to mention, saved me from fiddling around so much).

I visited The Library and was very impressed with it — I’ll be back often! Such a nice range of books you have, and the atmosphere there is so open and light and inviting!

Like you, I’m a readaholic — and proud of it, too! 🙂 Anyone who loves to read or write would love The Library. I’m looking forward to spending more time there!

Thanks again!

3 John (2 comments.) February 25, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Libraries in Second Life!?!? Mind = blown.

4 Peter Moss (2 comments.) March 12, 2010 at 7:37 pm

This whole concept of second life is a bit way out there for me.
But I guess it works for some people. Interesting use of technology.

I am a developer and I find this technology very intriguing. What is next? Smart card uploads straight to your long-term memory?

Peter Moss
Peter Moss´s last blog ..How to configure IIS 7 to redirect requests made to non-www domain to www domain? My ComLuv Profile

5 Tweetomatic Profiteer (1 comments.) March 14, 2010 at 8:10 am

Hey, My name is Tweetomatic Profiteer in Second Life. I love playing Second Life! It is my true second life! I got trial of reading a book, thanks for useful article!

I heart about youniverseworld. I heart it will be better Second life, no costs, no fees. Users can earning on affiliate program ! I will launch probably at April, so here is big potential!
Tweetomatic Profiteer´s last blog ..Tweetomatic Profiteer My ComLuv Profile

6 Jake@Mountain Biking (2 comments.) September 9, 2010 at 11:27 pm

That is wild. Have you found SL to be profitable in the business sense at all. I know some are monetizing it for real but don’t know how practical that is for a newbie.
Jake@Mountain Biking´s last blog ..Travel Plans My ComLuv Profile

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